City of Houston plans to start issuing reimbursement checks for Hurricane Harvey recovery

March 14th, 2019

The City of Houston is clearing hurdles to issue reimbursement checks for Harvey-related home repairs by the end of March.

On Wednesday, Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush approved the city’s request to reduce barriers for reimbursing homeowners. Also, City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, March 20 on a key set of homeowner contract documents that will allow the city’s to sign contracts with homeowners almost immediately.

“I have fought for the resources Houston needs to recover from Harvey, and now I’m fighting to make sure we get help to Houstonians without delay,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “In disaster recovery, there are a lot of challenges for homeowners including requirements set by state and federal agencies. I’m looking for ways to make the process smoother for everyone.”

The GLO authorized the city to use an additional method of verifying how much homeowners spent on recovery, by allowing homeowners to self-certify repair costs that are then verified by the city. The city and GLO still encourage homeowners to document recovery expenses with receipts when possible, while recognizing that self-certification will help speed the process. “We’re grateful to Commissioner Bush and the GLO for helping us reduce administrative burdens, while making sure that we’re good stewards of federal resources,” said Tom McCasland, the city’s Housing and Community Development Director.

Once City Council approves the standard contract forms for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP), the Housing and Community Development Department will move forward with signing contracts with the first round of homeowners for the reimbursement program option. The city will then verify repair costs and begin issuing checks to eligible homeowners. “Our target is the end of March to start cutting checks for reimbursement,” McCasland said.

Homeowners interested in participating in HoAP or other Harvey recovery programs should take the Harvey Recovery Survey at www.recovery.houstontx.gov/survey or 832-393-0550. The Survey takes less than 15 minutes, doesn’t require any documents, and is the first step in accessing recovery programs. More information is available at www.recovery.houstontx.gov.

Funds for Harvey Recovery Programs are provided by the City of Houston and the Texas General Land Office through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

Governor helps honor area’s first responders

September 1st, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand when the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner to honor first responders for their hard work during Hurricane Harvey.

Several hundred attended the event, which was held at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field in the hangers with military planes and helicopters. Many dignitaries were present including area legislators and Hilton Koch, owner of Hilton Furniture.

The setting was very impressive. Guests were greeted with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, after which they enjoyed dinner and Governor Abbott recognized the many first responders who helped thousands of victims during the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The Lone Star Flight Museum is located at 11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Field and is a great venue for parties and events. Katie Jackman, the chief marketing officer, will be happy to help you book your next event.

Harvest Moon, Hurricanes, and that particularly bad boy, Harvey

September 1st, 2018

By Andrea Todaro

The Harvest Moon Regatta® is probably the best known sailboat race on the Texas Gulf Coast, although even many participants do not know its history, or the role that hurricanes have played in its evolution.

The first HMR was the brainchild of three sailors from Lakewood Yacht Club. As John Broderick told the story, one Friday night at Lakewood the bar conversation turned to the need for more opportunities to sail and in particular, opportunities to get offshore. Sail maker John Cameron offered “the best sails I’ve had were late in the fall in the Gulf after the summer doldrums are over and the winter Northers haven’t started.” Competitive racer Ed Bailey agreed, saying he missed the old Texas Offshore Race Circuit (“TORC”) sailing events. Broderick, a dedicated cruiser and, at the time, Lakewood’s commodore, agreed and said, “why don’t we organize something?”

The bar talk led to discussions with members of other area sailing clubs, some of which were held at Frank’s Shrimp Hut, which is now Hooter’s in Seabrook. The first regatta, in 1987, was planned as a four race event beginning with a skippers’ meeting on Friday, Sept. 25, and a kickoff party on Saturday, Sept. 26. Racing started on Thursday, Oct. 1 and ran through the 10th with race segments or “legs” from the Galveston jetties to Port Isabel, back up the coast to Port Aransas, back to the Galveston Jetties, and then up to Marker Two at the Clear Creek channel leading into Lakewood’s homeport, Seabrook.

The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is known as the “harvest moon” and is characterized by a bright orange color; it is followed by a “hunter’s moon. The “harvest moon” can occur as early as September 8th or as late as Oct. 7 which was the date of the “harvest moon” in 1987. Thus, in October 1987, with the races occurring between October 1st and the 10th, the Harvest Moon Regatta® was born. Seventeen yachts sailed that first year, with several bikini beach parties along the way.

In 1988, the “harvest moon” fell on Sept. 25, so the race start was scheduled for Thursday, Sept.22, but on Sept. 8 Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the Queen’s Point Marina at Port Isabel. The race start was delayed three weeks to Oct. 14 and the destination was changed to Port Aransas. Thus began the tradition of sailing to Port Aransas under a magnificent full moon, sometimes a “harvest moon” if it fell during the first seven days of October, otherwise a “hunter’s moon” if it fell on or after the 8th of October.

Mother Nature and Hurricane Gilbert are credited with the growth of the Harvest Moon Regatta® which grew steadily from the 17 yachts of 1987 to over 260 yachts in later years. The growth was due in large part to the perfect destination, Port Aransas. As John Broderick described it: “This ideal Texas port allows yacht owners and sailors to use minimal days from work to join in on what can be a most memorable overnight sail down the Texas coast during traditionally the best offshore sailing time of the year. And we can all do this in relative safety shared by some 200 other yachts.”

The race, open to sailors with no club affiliation as well as members of other area sailing clubs, became a bucket list item for many Texas sailors, many of whom had little or no offshore experience. The growth of Harvest Moon Regatta® also resulted in the formation of a charitable organization, Bay Access Sailing Foundation. Bay Access now serves as the regatta’s organizing authority, with race management provided by volunteers from Lakewood Yacht Club.

In 2015, Hurricane Patricia was forecast to envelop Port Aransas in a “catastrophic rain event” with the worst conditions forecast for Sunday morning when sailors would be required to leave the relative safety of Port Aransas City Marina for the trip back to Houston and various other home ports. Numerous warnings from weather officials eventually prompted race organizers to cancel the race for the first time in its history. Despite the race cancellation, the party in Port Aransas went on, and some of the more seasoned sailors sailed the course and were able to obtain slips in the City Marina harbor to ride out the gale force winds that arrived as forecast on Sunday morning.

In 2017, when the actual “harvest moon” again fell in October, on the 5th, Hurricane Harvey put a new twist on the story. Hitting the Texas coast near Port Aransas on Aug. 25, the storm devastated “the ideal Texas port” and dumped torrential rain on the entire Houston area. This time, instead of canceling the race or rescheduling it, race organizers decided to reformat the race as a triangle race, similar to Lakewood’s TORC event, the Heald Bank Regatta, which is traditionally held in April. Beginning and ending at the Galveston Jetties, the Regatta was followed by an awards party at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, where regatta volunteers put a special focus on raising money for the devastated Port Aransas. Port Aransas city officials were surprised to receive a check for about $20,000 from the regatta, and they are looking forward to the return of the regatta this year, although it will be many years before Port Aransas recovers to pre-Harvey prosperity.

Dickinson Bar-b-que and Steakhouse

August 1st, 2018

Keith and Holly Lilley with some of Dickinson Bar-B-Que and Steakhouse’s finest fare.

By Xander Thomas

Dickinson Bar-b-que and Steakhouse opened for business on Oct. 3, 2009, but was all but wiped out in late 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

“It took 6 months, a million dollars worth of lost revenue, $700,000 for renovation and about $300,000 worth of cash to bring it back to life.” said restaurant owner Keith Lilley.

To make matters worse, the Lilley’s second restaurant, Marais, located right next door to Dickinson BBQ, was opened just four months before Harvey hit. But owners Keith and Holly Lilley were determined not to let this ruin their businesses.

“Dickinson BBQ was completely destroyed,” Keith said. “We reopened it on Jan. 26, six months later.”

But it wasn’t just the business that could have suffered from the massive storm, what about the employees?

“We all were damaged by Harvey, too, so, what’s the worst thing you can do to someone who’s lost everything is now tell them they’re unemployed.” Keith said, “So we couldn’t do that.”

The Lilleys made the extra effort to make sure their employees would still be able to pay their bills, and let them know they would all still have their positions.

“We also carried all 32 employees and 3 managers for six months.”

He says that while he and his wife really didn’t want to leave all of the people that had worked for them for years high and dry, this was also a decision for the business.

He says that a restaurant that has such a skilled, long-term staff shouldn’t just throw these people away, and that valuable employees are hard to come by. But he has some credit in the strong work force that he has built.

“Hire em right. Train em right. Treat em right.” Keith said.

This is how the Lilleys have put together a team of people that have stuck by them for years.

But this isn’t the only part of the business they feel proud to have built up. Keith says that all through his career of building up his businesses, he had people telling him he would never make it, that it wouldn’t work. Now he and his wife take pride in the restaurants they have created.

All he has to say about that?

His motto. “Yippee Ki-Yay.”

But what is it that keeps people coming back?

“Our menu is a combination of have you ever thought of takin’ this, stuffin’ it with that, fryin’ it with this and dippin’ it in that?”

Keith says the unique selection of dishes were a collaborative effort between him, his wife and the head chef.

“Trial and error to be the best in class drives our menu creation. That also includes Marais, our other restaurant next door, where we and Executive Chef Frank Pannitti dream up some of the finest food you’ve ever had.”

Dickinson Bar-B-Que and Steakhouse is located at 2111 F.M. 517 E., Dickinson, TX. 77539

Area still facing many challenges county judges tell BayTran crowd

July 1st, 2018

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta and Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, from left, stop for a photo together at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South Hotel.

The annual State of the Counties Luncheon is always the highlight of the year for the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, and this year was no different with President Theresa Rodriguez greeting many area mayors and city councilors, eager for an update.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Brazoria County Judge Mark Sebesta each talked about the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the transportation challenges they face and what they hope for the future.

After Chairman David Hamilton welcomed the crowd — that included Mayors Pat Hallisey of League City, Jeff Wagner of Pasadena, Tom Reid of Pearland, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Mark Denman of Nassau Bay — the Charles A. Jacobson Award was presented by Judge Emmett.

The 2018 recipient was Port of Houston Authority Chairman Janiece Longoria, an attorney who is a frequent speaker on the importance of Port Houston, infrastructure and transportation.

Noting that the award, is presented each year to a community leader who continues the work started by aerospace executive Chuck Jacobson, the founder of the Bay Area Transportation Partnership who worked tirelessly to promote and advance transportation and infrastructure development around the region, Emmett, himself a past recipient of the award, seemed pleased to make the presentation, adding that it is “people like her that makes society tick.”

Judge Emmett gave a quick update on Harris County, which he told the crowd is the only county in the entire country with 2 million people, noting that one gets more house for his money here than most places before going on to point out some of the difficulties with the county having property taxes as its only income, whereas it needed more revenue sources. “We need an honest conversation about building roads,” he told the crowd. “We need your help.”

Judge Sebesta said Harvey was not a hurricane, but a bad-a– rain storm that flooded 13,000 homes in Brazoria County. “Harvey was the significant event of a lifetime,” he added.

Then, to update the BayTran crowd, he said the Highway 288 project was actually under construction “…after talking about it for years.” The project actually came to fruition through a partnership working with Pearland and TxDOT, he added.

Judge Henry, just re-elected to his third term and happy over the recent passage of a proposed bond issue, said Galveston County is facing many challenges with all the road work TxDOT has under way along I-45 from the north county line past Highways 518 and 646. “Evacuation this summer might be a real challenge,” he said, adding with a smile that the best travel time along the freeway in Galveston County is between 2 and 4 a.m. The construction work will not be completed until 2021, he said. Meanwhile, work on the Pelican Island bridge is getting started.

Other officials in the crowd included Galveston County Commissioners Ken Clark, Joe Giustie and Darrell Apffel, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, plus City Councilors Hank Dugie and Larry Millican of League City, Nancy Ojeda of La Porte, Natalie Picha of Seabrook, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena and Ashley Graves of Nassau Bay.

Port Commissioner John Kennedy, second from left, arrives at BayTran’s State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South to find himself in the company of, from left, Harris County liaison Ron Servis, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby and Ken Fickes with Harris County Transit Services.

Houston’s Local Action Plan Open for Public Input Until June 21

June 8th, 2018

The City of Houston has released its draft local action plan for $1.15 billion in housing recovery funding. The plan is available for review and public comment from Thursday, June 7 through Thursday, June 21 and will be submitted to City Council for approval on June 27. The plan includes a local needs assessment, programs and budget, and spending timelines for $1,155,119,250 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

“Hurricane Harvey hit hard for many Houstonians, but it didn’t break our spirit,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “With these recovery resources, our goal is to make historic progress in ensuring that every Houstonian has a safe, affordable place to live, and that our neighborhoods provide economic opportunities for Houstonians to thrive.”

Since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the availability of housing recovery funds in February, the City has been working with Harris County, the State of Texas, and the federal government to ensure that Houston gets its fair share of these resources and that they are locally controlled. Submitting a local action plan to the Texas General Land Office (GLO) is a requirement for Houston to receive this funding.

The Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) has been convening public meetings and focus groups to inform the development of the local action plan. Since April, HCDD has worked with civic groups, the Super Neighborhood Council, and City Council Members to host or participate in 17 community meetings, focus groups, and public events to get input on Houstonians’ recovery priorities.

“Houstonians must have a voice in their own recovery,” said Housing Director Tom McCasland. “Our department will continue to be out in the community, listening to people’s experience, concerns, and needs so that we can build a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable city.”

More than 600 people have participated in events focused on long-term recovery since April and 383 have taken HCDD’s recovery survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/HoustonHarveyRecovery. Additional meetings will be held throughout the comment period before the draft goes to City Council on June 27. A list of upcoming events is posted at www.houstontx.gov/housing and on the HCDD Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/HoustonHCDD.

Later this summer, Houston’s plan will be incorporated into the State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery: Hurricane Harvey – Round 1 as a substantial amendment. Harris County’s plan will be incorporated in the same amendment.

Public comments on the local action plan may be submitted by email to: Fatima.Wajahat@houstontx.gov or by mail: HCDD, ATTN: Fatima Wajahat, 601 Sawyer, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77007. View the draft Plan at:

To learn more about CDBG-DR and upcoming events related to disaster recovery, please call 832.394.6200 or visit www.houstontx.gov/housing.

THE A LIST: It’s spring time

May 1st, 2018

Ange Mertens

By Ange Mertens

Spring has sprung! And in the Bay Area it seems to keep springing back and forth to a late winter — which has caused a lot of us to postpone the yearly spring cleaning of our closets.

But now it is time to take inventory of our wardrobes. First purge, go through and find any clothing that need repairs or alterations. If they can be fixed, then take the time to get that done. If they can’t be repaired or really are just never going to fit you, get rid of them.

Next go through your closet and get rid of things that you no longer need. If you haven’t worn it in a year, or every time you reach for it you put it back, you don’t need it! Donating clothes is a wonderful thing to do, especially after events like Hurricane Harvey. But remember when you donate, that just because people are in need at a specific time, does not mean that they want your junk!

PLACES TO DONATE
Donate gently loved stylish clothing. Think about donating to some local organizations like the Bay Area Turning Point and Interfaith Caring Ministries. The Assistance League of Bay Area also has the Cinderella Project that needs your formal dresses so they can provide a wonderful prom experience for local underprivileged  girls. Suits and professional clothing for men and women can be donated to Suit Up for Veterans at any local ACU of Texas branch.

The next step after closet spring cleaning is to purchase a few basic pieces to update your wardrobe. Feminine is the hottest new trend for spring and fall fashions. The runways are full of pastel colors( especially lavender), ruffles, and sheer fabrics. Plaids and checked patterns and florals are all the rage, sometimes even mixed together. And fringe is everywhere! On shirts and shoes, shirts, jackets and accessories.

And, speaking of accessories, fun 80s influences are being seen with chokers and layered necklaces. Jumpsuits also are gracing the runways in both long and short versions. Take a few of these trends and add them to your wardrobe to freshen up your style. Shop local.

Brunch offerings at Marais in Dickinson. Photo by Amber Sheffield

A HIDDEN GEM
I took my daughter, Amber, with me to try out the Sunday brunch at the surprising hidden gem called Marais on Benson Bayou in Dickinson. They have a fabulous spread with everything from an omelette bar to crawfish. General Manager Nick Stephenson recommended some of their specialties like chicken and waffles and banana foster bread pudding, and they didn’t disappoint!

Amber tried their famous Bloody Mary that comes with a friend green tomato, bacon and shrimp as it’s garnish, and said it lived up to the hype. They also are known for their fusions vodka and rum, and have a Absinthe bar.The New Orleans influenced restaurant, owned by Keith and Holly Lilley, is a sprawling building over several levels and their Chef du jour Carole Barnett says they serve four separate menus. The main dining room is for elegant dining where you can enjoy sumptuous steaks and seafood platters and enjoy the service of an attentive wait staff.

Cajun Bloody Mary at Marais in Dickinson. Photo by Amber Sheffield

There is the Marais and Benson bar where you can hang out literally by sitting in a fun swing, and the waterside Plank Bar offers beautiful views and will have live music on Saturdays. They have Girls Martini Night Out on Tuesdays, Wine and Whiskey Wednesdays and Crawfish Thursdays.

HEROES FED
For all of these wonderful things that Marais is, giving is the best thing they are! During the unprecedented floods of Hurricane Harvey the restaurant received devastating damage and lost the Plank Bar and its sister restaurant, Dickinson BBQ.

Ninety percent of Dickinson was flooded and people were in need. Volunteers from all over and first responders alike were all heroes who came to help clear the startling ruin that had taken over the city.

Hungry heroes have to be fed and Marais, Keith Lilley, Frank Pannitti, Carole Barnett, and Carol Rogers rose to the occasion and fed those heroes, and in the process became heroes themselves. For a week and a half they showed up and fed a city in pain. The city of Dickinson is emerging from the flood like a Phoenix from the fire and Marais and their special employees are a part of that miracle.

Talks point to local control of U.S. long-term recovery aid

March 22nd, 2018

After a recent meeting among representatives of the City of Houston, Harris County and the Texas General Land Office in Washington, D.C., Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announced that local governments and the state agency have established a framework for moving forward on distribution of long-term recovery funds for Hurricane Harvey.

“I had asked for fairness in how the City of Houston would be treated – that the City be properly consulted by the General Land Office, per the requirements for these funds set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Mayor Turner said. “This meeting marks the beginning of that consultation. We are now on the right path to a fair distribution of much-needed disaster relief dollars.”

“I’d like to thank Land Commissioner George P. Bush for his collaborative efforts, as well as our partners at Harris County,” Mayor Turner continued. “Working together, we can put these funds to work for the kinds of long-term investments in housing and community development that will make our city stronger for the future.”

“It’s crucial that local governments have significant input into how these funds are distributed,” said Judge Emmett. “As the first line of response to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey, we are most familiar with what is needed and where. I genuinely thank our state and federal officials for recognizing our need for flexibility.”

HUD convened the meeting, which included representatives from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Abbott had selected the Texas General Land Office to distribute $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds appropriated to the State by Congress for Harvey relief last year. This is the second round of long-term recovery funding for Hurricane Harvey and is primarily intended to meet housing needs. Congress appropriated additional funds in January for infrastructure and mitigation.

The meeting was convened to begin consultations among the City, County, and State about how funds will be distributed and used. The framework gives Houston and Harris County local control over their recoveries and uses HUD’s unmet housing needs data as a basis for distributing funds.

The GLO will use the framework to draft an action plan, which is required by HUD before the agency will distribute funds to the state.  The public can comment on the draft action plan for 14 days before it is submitted to HUD for approval.

“This is a good first step, and the City of Houston plans to remain heavily involved in the process until we cross the finish line with HUD approval of the GLO’s action plan,” Mayor Turner said. “The sooner we have funds in our hands, the sooner we can implement a world-class community engagement plan and put these dollars to work for recovery.”

Armed with a clearer picture of how the funds will be distributed, the city immediately  will begin consulting with communities in Houston about how to use these resources to build a more resilient and equitable city.

A letter to District E residents from Councilman Dave Martin

February 5th, 2018

In January, the City of Houston began to send out Substantial Damage Letters to City of Houston residents living in the 100-year flood plain or floodway. Residents that do not live in the 100-year flood plain or floodway should not receive Substantial Damage Letters.

What is Substantial Damage? Substantial Damage means that the cost of restoring property to its pre- damage condition equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure. For example, if the total cost to repair a home is $60,000 and the home is worth $100,000, the home is 60% damaged, making it substantially damaged.

I am more than sensitive to the devastation that this letter can bring to homeowners, but rest assured homeowner’s do have options. There is no reason to stop your renovations or feel that you are trapped.

If the city determines a home to be substantially damaged, the homeowner has the following options to obtain a flood damage repair permit:

1. Appeal the Substantial Damage Determination

Complete and submit the city’s Appeal of Substantial Damage Determination Appeal Form at https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/notices/flood-damage- repair.html along with the required documentation demonstrating that your home or building is not substantially damaged (insurance proof of loss or personal proof of loss). This form and the required documentation can be submitted via email atfmo@houstontx.gov, US Mail or in person at the city’s Floodplain Management Office (FMO). FMO will respond in writing. If a homeowner disagrees with FMO’s response to their appeal they can take their appeal to the City’s General Appeal Board.

2. Show the flood damaged home is already in compliance by submitting an Elevation Certificate

To be compliant a home must meet the elevation requirements (lowest living floor must be 12 inches above Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in the 100-year floodplain, lowest horizontal member must be 18 inches above BFE in the floodway) and performance standards described in Chapter 19. For most structures, this will require submittal of an Elevation Certificate, based on the current surveying standards.

3. Bring the flood damaged home into compliance

This is the option that people fixate on but after speaking with representatives at the Flood Plain Management office our office has found this to be very rare.

Should a homeowner choose to elevate their home it must be elevated to meet elevation requirements (lowest living floor must be 12 inches above Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in the 100-year floodplain, lowest horizontal member must be 18 inches above BFE in the floodway) and performance standards described in Chapter 19. Performance standards include, but are not limited to, flood resistant materials, flood-protected utilities and adequate flood openings.

The District E Staff has assisted several residents, answering questions they have regarding their substantial damage letters as well as helping those obtain verification of substantial damage in the case they have not yet received a letter, but suspect they might. If you think your home is substantially damaged but have not received a letter, please email districte@houstontx.gov and the office can assist you with requesting verification. You can also email the District E office if you would like assistance with the appeals process.

We understand that these letters are extremely discouraging but want to make sure residents are aware of the resources needed to appeal and carry-on with rebuilding. If you have any questions or would like more information, my office would be happy to provide you with a Substantial Damage Info Sheet and assist you with answering any questions you may have regarding the process. You may contact the District E office by calling 832-393- 3008 or by emailing districte@houstontx.gov.

“The District E office is always a resource to residents and we will all get through this together, stay Houston strong!” Councilman Martin said.

 

Sincerely,

Dave Martin

Development rules tightened

January 1st, 2018

Clear Lake project saves many homes from flooding

By Mary Alys Cherry

It comes too late for many, but Harris County Commissioners Court has tightened up flood plain development regulations in an effort to prevent new homes being built in the 500-year flood plain from future flooding.

The county action came only days after a Clear Lake forum on flooding, led by the Houston flood czar, Stephen Costello, and a group of experts who felt something needed to be done in the wake of the thousands of homes and cars that flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

The new development rules, which were approved unanimously at the Commissioners Court Dec. 5 meeting, call for new homes to be built up to eight feet higher than was previously required and that homes be built to the 500-year storm standard, rather than the 100 year requirements. Judge Ed Emmett who only recently said, “We need to start over and look at everything,” called the new rules “the toughest in the nation.”

The Clear Lake flood forum featured a diverse group of experts and thought leaders exchanging ideas on how to solve both the flooding problem and the need for a coastal spine to protect the area from storm surge during hurricanes.

MANY HOMES SAVED
Best news of the night at the public forum at NASA’s Gilruth Center came as Clear Lake City Water Authority President John Branch described how its Exploration Green project saved hundreds of Clear Lake City homes from flooding, although it is only 88 percent complete. The Clear Lake area, downhill from Houston and Pasadena, has eight 100-year flood plains and four 500-year flood plains, he said.

But, Branch explained, “we couldn’t get the government’s help, so we bought the golf course.”
And, he proudly told the audience, “It worked as designed, filling up with 100 million gallons of stormwater” that could have gone into nearby homes.

Exploration Green was formed and incorporated to develop, preserve and protect the land that was once known as the Clear Lake Golf Course. The land was purchased by the Clear Lake City Water Authority for use as both a storm water detention pond and a recreation area.

The Water Authority created a Master Plan for the area and sponsored the formation of a Conservancy to generate funding for the installation, operation and maintenance of the amenities outlined in the plan, such as hike, bike and pedestrian commuter trails, athletic fields, lakes, water features and abundant natural habitat and native grass land areas.

STILL NO HELP
The second part of the evening was devoted to the proposed coastal barrier system, which would provide a gate across the mouth of Galveston Bay and a barrier system along the coast, to prevent storm surge damage during hurricanes, but which still lacks financial help from the government nine years after Hurricane Ike’s devastation.

Col. Len Waterworth from Texas A&M-Galveston showed a film illustrating how a direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane could wreak havoc across Southeast Texas and how various cities and officials are working to get the money to build the system. Jim Blackburn of Rice University, Brandt Mannchen of the Sierra Club and Bob Stokes of the Galveston Bay Foundation told of their efforts to keep an eye on the turtles, birds, fish and wildlife in Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. George Guillen, director of the UHCL Environmental Institute hosted the event and Dr. Neal Lane of the Baker Institute at Rice served as moderator.